The producer, David Dortort, had a set of values in mind when he created the show. He wanted Ben Cartwright, the patriarch, to be a strong, wise, and competent man, the father who could teach and discipline and set things right within the family. He wanted Ben to be a kind and generous man as well. He might be wealthy, but he was neither selfish nor arrogant, and he raised his sons to be the same.
Contrast this to 2011 when TV Guide Magazine called the new television season "the emasculation of men on TV." Christian Kachel of the Washington Times has said that the template for the prime time sitcom is "immature, usually overweight, lazy, spineless men navigating life by accident, dumb luck, or with the help of superior female characters." Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic characterizes the shows like this: wives working double shifts and getting promotions while husbands sit around confused; husbands lying to their working wives about how much hockey they watch on TV while they are supposed to be tending the baby; sisters doing homework and brothers feeding the dog their orange juice.
But all of this is just a reflection of society, I am afraid. It has become such an issue that books and articles have been written by the dozen with almost the same title as this essay. When celebrities like Bette Midler are quoted (in the National Review) as saying that "men and religion are worthless," what can you expect? Ben Shapiro states in the same source that there is "indication of a general belief…that masculinity itself is toxic and must be quashed," citing quotes by such people as Hilary Clinton, using exactly that type of language ("toxic"). He continues, "While they champion the notion that women can do anything they set their minds to (true!), they simultaneously castigate men as the barriers to progress and masculinity as a condition to be avoided." They believe that boys should not be told to "be a man," but rather should be feminized, because, of course, women are not just equal, they are superior, and all the ills of the world come from men. According to Kachel, "rambunctious" boys are prescribed Ritalin to calm them down two and a half times more often than the same level of "rambunctious" girls.
There is now an organization called "Single Mothers by Choice." These women believe that the only role a man should play is "sperm donor." They plan to have children and raise them without a father from the outset. It isn't that something bad happened in their lives and now they have to do this monumental task alone—they believe they can do it better alone. Now think about the subcultures within our own where the men are noticeably absent and tell me those children are less prone to violence, drugs, and crime, and that they are more likely to grow up to be well-educated and successful in life. Keith ran an unofficial poll in his work as first, a probation officer and then, a classification officer doing intake in prisons. He believes that probably 90% of the felons who sat across the table from him were raised without a man in the house. Maybe those "Single Mothers by Choice" are all professionals who have the money to hire nannies, send their kids to private schools, and then make sure they get into an impressive college. But what about the single mothers who wait on tables, load the shelves at Wal-Mart, and check out groceries? Most of them wear themselves out young just trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their children's heads. They are every bit as handicapped as a man who has lost a leg or gone blind.
And what does God say about it? He designed a nuclear family with both a mother and a father. He gave them roles to fulfill so their children would be raised to succeed in life, but more important, so they would become faithful, righteous children of His own. The Bible has no trouble at all saying, "Act like a man! Be strong!" (1 Cor 16:13). And it takes a real man who knows the struggle to teach a boy how to harness his energy, his aggression, his sexuality, and how to get through the curveballs that life will throw his way. It also takes a man to show a girl what to look for in a mate, by setting the example of provider, protector, spiritual leader, and the one who will "dwell with her according to knowledge," "nurturing and cherishing her." It is sad when it doesn't work out that way, not something to be celebrated.
Fathers have a specific role as the authority in the family, and through that role teach their children exactly what to expect from their Heavenly Father. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. (Heb 12:7-10).
It's too bad that David Dortort is no longer producing television shows. But if television truly reflects our society, that is even sadder. Today I celebrate my man of God. Promise me you will celebrate your man of God, if you have one, and tell him how grateful you are before this day is over.
For I have chosen [Abraham], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice… (Gen 18:19).